The Google I/O 2018 developer conference is underway in beautiful Mountain View, California. To get everything started, the search giant held its much hyped up keynote address. During the opening session, Google took time to discuss the next software release of its mobile operating system, Android. This was typical of Google, who usually showcases what’s coming over the next year during the show. As announced back in March, the mobile platform that is the world’s most popular will be updated to Android P.
Google introduced the first developer preview of Android P and some of its features a mere two months ago for developers and third-party OEMs. Today, as expected and right on time, Google is releasing the first update to the preview in developer preview two. This also brings support for the Android Beta Program, allowing Android users with compatible hardware like Pixel and now hardware from some other Android OEMs to sample the update and send feedback. Since we’ve been able to test the first preview for some time, we were aware of some new features heading into today. However, Google executives went into more detail about the next version of the OS, added features in preview two, and noted ones that have been improved from the first preview. Due to a limited span of time, only the major new features were talked about, though this update overall seems to be a pretty big one after all. Google is excited about the new update, and so are we!
There will be a total of five Android P developer previews before the official release in Q3 of 2018. Google will continue to make announcements over the next few days in its developer sessions about Android P for mobile. For now, we’re going to walk you though some of the major stuff we saw today. The announcements can be broken down into a few sub-categories. Google’s Vice President of Android, Dave Burke, ran through some of the new features rather fast, so we’ll do our best job at breaking them down into simpler terms for you to give you an idea of how the features will work once implemented. Most of these are the visual and functional changes that users like me and you will notice right away and get to play around with, though like every modern Android update, there are a bunch of under the hood changes being made in Android P as well. If you missed anything, here’s our roundup.
Google is always trying to make our devices last longer with new ways to improve battery life and reduce battery consumption. After all, how can we enjoy everything else if our device is constantly running out of battery? Nougat and Oreo brought about Doze, but in Android P, Adaptive Battery will take things a step further using AI and deep learning to predict apps that will consume battery. By partnering with Deep Mind, Google has been able to make for a 30% reduction in CPU of app wake-ups, which is pretty darn impressive.
Google knows that users are constantly adjusting screen brightness and wants to help us with a new feature in Android P known as Adaptive Brightness. By using the user’s preferences and surrounding conditions, the brightness slider can adjust automatically if the users has the option on to meet the conditions. This is not entirely new, but it’s cool and will also help users consume battery in times that a bright screen might not be needed to see content.
In earlier versions of Android, Google has included an app row at the top of its Pixel Launcher. The app row sits atop the app drawer and is getting some updates with Android P. Currently, the apps are suggested based on the user’s habits and current conditions like the time of day. But with Android P, Google has announced App Actions, which go to another level in predicting actions the user wants to take. Based on usage patterns, not only will apps be suggested, but also actions for those apps such as making a phone call to a certain person for the phone app. And perhaps best of all, App Actions extend to one’s personal search, Google Assistant, and smart text selection across their Google account. This functionality is open to developers for implementation for their own apps as well, so it has the ability to expand greatly with time and make for a new dimension of suggested and recommended content.
‘Slices’ is another feature Google is implementing with Android P. These are recommended interactive snippets of information from apps that include App Actions. You’ll see these slices in Google Search and in many other places once the early action program for developers opens next month.
ML Kit is a new kit of API for developers available through Firebase that helps with the implementation of Google features. It will be available for both Android and iOS, and Google announced a bunch of early partners to start including Turbo Tax and many more.
Multi-tasking has always been one of the great features of Android. And for devices running vanilla Android P such as Pixel and various Android One devices, the experience is about to get a whole lot better with an upcoming refresh. The purpose of these features is to make doing many things at a time, easier and more manageable.
To start, there are new controls in Android P with new and fluent animations that make navigating a breeze. The three navigation keys that have allowed users to navigate the operating system in many earlier versions are now gone. In place is a single, clean home button that doubles as a slider. This functions using gesture controls. Swipe up once and you’ll be brought to your recent apps menu as well as a new dock of suggested apps. This row of apps is just like the one in the app drawer, which can be brought up with another swipe up. Users can slide the slider horizontally to go through their recent apps, which is a change over the vertical menu in prior versions of the OS like Oreo.
There’s also a Google search bar for accessing the Google Assistant and conducting a quick search just above the new row of app icons. One’s recent apps also gains smart text selection, a feature that debuted in Oreo. In other words, you don’t even have to open the full app to gain information so long as you have it running in the background.
Android P is also about simplicity, and though some of the new features seem almost confusing at first, they will really make things easier once used to. Volume controls have been rearranged, as we saw in the first preview of Android P. But with developer preview 2, users have can have their media volume setting adjust automatically if they choose. This means no more starting up a video with no audio and having to re-start it.
There are also new tools for screenshots, as well as a device rotation button that appears when the device first notices it has been tilted to a different position. I feel like we’ve needed this for a while to prevent accidental orientation switches of the screen.
Almost every year, notifications get some kind of upgrade on Android. After all, no other operating system does them better. For 2018, Google has redesigned incoming notifications as well as the notification panel on Stock Android. In a move that suites other changes made by Google, the icon toggles in the notification panel are now round and more of them show at once. Users will also gain some abilities including the action to reply to messages or enter text replies directly from a notification. Full conversations are now stored within the notification window so you can see more of than just the most recent message from your friend. Pictures also display in color and full size, rather than the grayed out preview in Android Oreo, and quick replies are nearly system-wide. Some enhancements to notification channels are also coming in Android P.
Dashboard is a new menu in device settings that monitor’s your device usage cross-platform in more detail over previous usage menus. There is now in-app usage rather than just what apps you are using, this way you can pin point and track exactly what you’re doing on a daily basis. Users can even set goals, similar to parental controls seen with Family Link and in other services. Basically, if the user finds his or herself spending too much time on YouTube or another app, they can set an App Timer. Once the timer runs out, the app reminds the user to take a break from using that app. It can also grey out the icon on the user’s homescreen so they know they’ve reached the usage cap for the day.
Do Not Disturb
The Do Not Disturb function is not new, but has been improved quite a bit since the last software release. ‘Shush’ is a feature whereby the user places his/her phone face down on a flat surface and Do Not Disturb is automatically turned on. Users can create a set of emergency contacts, like before, that will not be muted when the mode is on. But when it’s on, both out loud and visual distractions are turned off.
Wind Down Mode
Wind Down Mode is a nighttime mode for your Android device. You can set a time that you go to bed, and the phone will automatically go to grey-scale, which is easier on your eyes and can make you sleep better. There are also a bunch of other settings that can be enabled or disabled automatically once the user’s bed time is reached, and everything will go back to normal in the morning.
That’s Android P in a nutshell. There’s definitely quite a few things to look forward to, more so than there was with the second build of Android Oreo I feel like. The software is available today, and as mentioned above, it’s now in beta meaning that owners of compatible Android handsets can test it out by enrolling for over-the-air previews and start reporting their feedback to Google. It’s not exactly recommended for everyone, and will surely become more stable with time, but the option is there if you’re impatient and want to test Google’s latest software for mobile. Hopefully Project Treble will do it some good this year so more people eventually gain access. We’ve detailed all the update information, instructions and supported devices, in a separate post, which you can find linked in our post slider above along with our other coverage from the three-day event. We should have more of the specifics in the coming days, and in case you’re looking for the minor upgrades and enhancements for developers in Android P, go to this post here that was written up earlier or to the Android Developers site here.
What do you think Android P will be named? Popcorn, peanut, popsicle, or peppermint? Is it worthy of version 9.0? Let us know in the comments.
We’ll keep you posted on everything Google I/O 2018 right as it happens! Follow us on social media for up to the minute updates from Google’s Developer Conference.